Yesterday I visited Kibera for the first time. Long before I came to Kenya I’ve wanted to see this place with my own eyes. Estimates of its population vary from 100,000 to 1 million people, no one really knows. Whatever the case, they say it’s the second largest slum in Africa and third largest in the entire world. Obviously I had to go.
I entered Kibera to practice a survey on efficient stoves. I walked around to a few organizations, interviewed women and got a feel for their cooking habits, fuel use, income, interest in an efficient stove, etc. It was a fascinating exercise to help me understand how people cook their food in a place like this. In addition, I learned how to conduct an interview and learned about everyday life in the slum.
After the surveys, I headed to Toi Market, one of the largest open markets in Nairobi to find some locally produced stoves. After an hour of walking around we failed to find any but saw a lot of cool sights along the way! What struck me first was the amount of charcoal going though this market. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of bags of charcoal being sold all over the market. Besides charcoal, they were selling clothes, fabrics, groceries, sardines, woodwork, art, furniture, toys and stationary, to name just a few. There were so many vendors selling so many things, you could easily get lost in the winding alleys of this huge market.
My favorite thing about Kibera though is that it’s not like the rest of Nairobi. While I eat at shopping malls nice enough to make you think you’re in the States, these people live among trash and grime every day. They wake up at 5:00 AM and walk to work hours away, many just to earn $2 a day. There is crime, poverty, and hopelessness. But it’s real and it’s where people need help. That’s why I would rather be in Kibera acknowledging the hardships of the slum than comfortably denying their existence in nicer places. Not that those places are bad, rich people spending money there employ a lot of people. But you have to recognize the existence of places like Kibera. It may be messy and difficult, but it’s there and we have to do something to change it.